Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Re-take the airwaves

One in three U.S. high school students say the press ought to be more restricted, and even more say the government should approve newspaper stories before readers see them, reported Greg Toppo for USA Today ("U.S. students say press freedoms go too far", 2/1/2005).

Citing a Knight Foundation study, 36 percent of students said they were for "government approval" of stories before publishing, and 32 percent said the press "enjoys too much freedom."

Fully one-third of America's next generation is for government censorship of the media.

Meanwhile, Media Matters reports that both cable and broadcast news programs consistently skewed right during the 2004 presidential debates, featuring panels where Republicans outnumbered Democrats, and where Republicans were allowed to speak before, and more often, than their fellow Democrats (Ari Berman, "GOP TV", The Nation, 1/26/2005).

These facts demonstrate once again the myth of the "liberal media." If anything, the media is more conservative and partisan in favor of Republicans (see Eric Alterman's article, "What Liberal Media?") .

Of course, one only has to tune into the hate-mongering ignorance and hypocrisy of self-promoting AM radio talk show hosts to understand that citizens are not in control of the airwaves, nor are they provided with the balanced presentation of issues that is so vital for the functioning of our democracy.

I know what you're thinking: "Don't we have a Fairness Doctrine which forces broadcasters to allow differing viewpoints to be aired?"

We used to. Ronald Reagan saw to killing it back in 1987. Immediately upon the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, AM talk radio programming skyrocketed. What better way to brainwash the American public than to be allowed to froth venom from the mouth 24/7 without any obligation to citizens, notwithstanding the fact that broadcasters "borrow" the airwaves from the public for free. 90 percent of all broadcast hours on talk radio are conservative according to a Democracy Radio survey.

Now, there's legislation pending that would restore the Fairness Doctrine.

Representative Louis Slaughter (D, NY) has introduced H.R. 4710, the MEDIA Act (Meaningful Expression of Democracy in America), which would reinstate the Fairness Doctrine to ensure that broadcasters "afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance." There's more about Louise Slaughter in an interview that aired on PBS' Now in December 2004.

There is hope of getting this legislation passed. When citizens protested in the millions after the FCC attempted to relax media ownership rules in 2003, Congress listened. The FCC has given up the fight--for now. The same level of action on the Fairness Doctrine issue could get the legislation passed.

Take a moment to learn more about the Fairness Doctrine, and to sign the petition to get H.R. 4710 passed (http://www.fairnessdoctrine.com/). Then, tell your legislators what you think (http://www.senate.gov/, http://www.house.gov/).


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